Contrary to popular opinion, men very often struggle with divorce. Such a split hits everyone differently, of course, but some general trends exist. For example, no matter if the divorce was a long time coming or a total surprise, men and women have unique emotional experiences. The time is long overdue to reject pop culture stereotypes and recognize the emotional stages of divorce that men commonly feel.
We’ll go into more detail below but, for starters, men are more prone to post-divorce mental issues than women. This includes a much higher rate of suicide. We need to pay much closer attention to the impact of divorce on men.
Ego & Expectations
We live in a society that imposes stoic indifference on men. Men are expected to behave, well… manly. Even in the face of crisis and loss, they are not “allowed” to crumble or show weakness. Such expectations can make it virtually impossible to process the grief of divorce and separation.
Running parallel to this reality is the role of the ego. If men are providers and protectors, what does it mean when their marriage fails? For too many men, it means they have failed. It means they are not “real” men (and perhaps, not “real” fathers either). This ego collapse can lead them to double down on not showing emotion. Hey, it’s bad enough to fail as a husband; you can’t be seen crying, too.
Men Go Through Stages Like:
- “I can’t believe she/he did this to me.”
- “Screw everyone, I don’t need them or their help.”
- “I’ll pick myself up and get right back it.”
This cultural blueprint lays the foundation for men to struggle mightily when heading toward separation. With roughly two-thirds of divorces initiated by women, men are taught to “take it in stride” and “man up.” The results of this cycle are unhealthy and sometimes dangerous.
As touched on above, mental health problems are more likely to be reported by men. With men also being less likely to talk about it, the numbers are probably higher. Men fall back on dysfunctional coping mechanisms like:
- Isolation and social withdrawal
- Risky behaviors like substance abuse, dangerous driving, unsafe sex, binge eating, and other forms of “self-medication”
- Rushing into another relationship
- Refusing to accept or discuss how the divorce is impacting them
- Chronic worry
- Anger and aggression
Unresolved grief, when combined with the unhealthy habits listed above, increases a man’s risk for a wide range of physical and mental ailments. For example:
- Anxiety disorder
- Suicidal ideation
- Loss of self-esteem
- Cardiovascular disease
Needless to say, this cycle must be nipped in the bud.
Some Steps Men Can Take Toward Recovery
- Create some space between you and your ex-spouse until some time has passed
- If you have kids, do all the work you can to not let the divorce hurt them or your relationship with them
- Do not isolate yourself
- Lean on your support system to make sure you don’t “replace” your marriage with destructive habits
- Do not take out your anger on others
- Take your time when it comes to hooking up or dating
- Practice daily self-care
- Take a social media break
- Find ways to feel and process the grief and loss
The guidance of a mental health practitioner who “gets” it can make all of the above — especially the last entry — much easier. Your weekly therapy sessions can become a workshop of sorts. You’ll start to wrap your head around what happened, release some of the anger in a constructive way, identify your unhealthy patterns, and create new approaches as you move forward.
If you’re a man who has gone through or is about to go through a divorce, we should talk soon.
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